How To Buy A Mountain Home In Colorado- The Basics

When considering buying real estate in the mountains in Colorado there are a number of things to be aware of that differ from buying a conventional home. These are some of the mountain home buying basics that you need to be on top of. Its also important to note that there are additional costs associated with inspecting mountain properties. I have outlined some of those approximate costs below.

Mountain Homes are typically not on city water or sewage so instead you have a well for water and a septic system for waste. So in addition to a regular home inspection (that you should ALWAYS do on any home you go under contract to buy), there are several other types of inspections for mountain and/or rural properties you will want to pay attention to.



For the well, you want to get it tested for potability and flow rate. The potability test tells you if the water is drinkable and if there are any bad bacteria in the well. Bacteria can come from contamination from nearby septic systems for instance and its very important to know that the water you may be drinking and bathing in is safe.

Click HERE for more information on how a well works.

You may also get or want to get the hardness of the water tested – which will tell you the about how much dissolved minerals there are in the well water. Click HERE for a link to an article about hard water.

Well tests will generally run around $400 to cover the basics.

In Boulder County, John’s Well Service is a reputable well service and testing company:
Phone:(303) 444-7237

Septic System:

septic system

Septic Systems process waste water and it is very important to get them inspected before buying a home because a new septic system can easily be a $15-25k problem. Typically a septic inspection will include pumping and testing of septic system. Septic systems should last about 30 years with proper maintenance, sometimes longer. Click HERE for a link to a septic system basics page.

In Boulder County, septic systems must be certified through the county’s Septic Smart program. This is something you should require the seller of the house provide in order to move on with the sale of the house. You can read about the program and check the Septic Smart status of any address in Boulder County by clicking HERE

Septic pumping, inspection and certification runs about $750 (hopefully the seller will do this). In Boulder County Acme Septic and Suc N Up are two good companies:

Acme Septic, ask for Steve
Phone: (303)459-1106

Suc N Up
Phone: (970)674-9134

Surveys and ILCs:

surveys and ILCs

It is good practice to get a survey or an ILC (Improvement Location Certificate) done for mountain properties. In some cases the seller of the property may have one. If not, hiring a surveyor to check the bounds of the property can be a good idea to reveal any encroachments or easements on the property. Here is a story of some problems found via a survey:

The home back yard had fencing going around it completely. Due to the location of the house it bordered up to a few other homes. Those other homes had fenced in their yards. This particular homeowner kept the style of fencing up and added on to the areas the fence did not cover. Upon doing a survey of the property we found that three of the neighbors built the back of their fences on her property. In fact two of them intruded onto her property by over 10 feet. This caused a nightmare for the seller and the new homeowner. Because now we had issues with the property begin properly surveyed and neighbors encroaching on the property. The seller had purchased the house a few years earlier and did not order a survey to save on cost. Now, it is costing him a lot more money than that. The buyer will not close on the property without the fences being moved and the seller did not have a survey so he was not protected by any insurance and the neighbors are suing claiming they have rights to that property spots. The seller will be paying a lot more money to get the home sold now and in court costs than if he had just ordered a survey.

For the full article go HERE

Surveys are not cheap– an acre survey could easily run you $1,200-$2,000. And properties with complicated plots, or mining claims on them can run into the multiple thousands of dollars. Improvement Location Certificates (ILCs) are “light” versions of surveys that do not hold up in court and are not as exacting as full surveys but are cheaper and can give you a general idea if there might be any issues with the property lines. ILCs will usually run in the $600-$1,000 range.

In Boulder County Green Mountain Surveying and Flagstaff Surveyors are recommended:

Flagstaff Surveying, talk to Lee Stadle (who is also the Boulder County Surveyor)
Phone:(303) 499-9737

Green Mountain Surveying, talk to Sam Knight
Phone:(303) 601-8588

Insurance and Fire Mitigation
With mountain properties, it is important to get an insurance quote before your insurance objection deadline– mainly because of the possibility that you will need to do fire mitigation. Sometimes insurance companies will require fire mitigation– the clearing of trees near the house– in order to insure the home. Sometimes this is not a big deal, and sometimes it can cost thousands of dollars. Unless you are handy with a chainsaw… Also insurance quotes on mountain properties can vary greatly in price and some companies won’t even insure mountain homes so be sure to shop around on quotes.

Horses and Other Animals:
In unincorporated Boulder County (ie. not in a city proper), any property that has more than 1 acre of land is by regulation allowed at least 2 horses. However, water rights for watering your horses is another issue. You may not be allowed to water your horses using a “domestic well” (which is a common type of well in the mountains). If there is a stream running through your property then you should be ok. But for the sake of regulations and out of consideration to your neighbors it is a very good idea to not assume that just because the property is larger than 1 acre you will be ok with horses.

And before you go about setting up your sustainable mountain farm you should note that other animals such as chickens or cows, can be prohibited by the subdivision’s covenants – even if there is no HOA so be sure to read the title work that you get once you are under contract regarding any restrictions on the property.

In summary:
Well Test:
-Potability test
-Flow Rate test
-Optional: Radon, Copper, Lead, etc.

Septic System:
-Septic systems can easily be a $25,000 problem.
-Should be pumped and inspected.
-Boulder County Septic Smart Certification is a must.

Surveys & ILCs:
-ILCs (Improvement Location Certificates) are cheaper but don’t hold up in court.
-Mining claims – can be complicated and costly to get a survey done.

Insurance & Fire Mitigation
-Make sure to get insurance quotes before your insurance objection deadline.
-Fire mitigation is sometimes required by the insurance companies and can be costly.

Horses & Other Animals:
-Unincorporated Boulder County- 1 acre allows for 2 horses – check each Town/City for regulations
-But water for horses can be problematic and don’t forget about the neighbors.

There are nuances to buying properties in the mountains, things to be aware of and things to check on but the things listed here cover the basics and will get you asking good questions and headed in the right direction.

Have additional questions? Feel free to email C.T. at ct(at)